© 2022 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local News

West Nile Case In Escambia Leads To Another Health Alert

Another mosquito-borne illness alert is going out from the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, after a second case of West Nile virus for 2016 was confirmed in a county resident.

This is the second such case in as many months and neither patient is being identified. Mosquitoes are known carriers of West Nile and there are concerns that other residents and visitors may become ill from bites.

DOH-Escambia Director Dr. John Lanza reminds us that West Nile has different impacts on different people, and can also be mistaken for other ailments.

“You don’t have the respiratory side with West Nile or other mosquito-borne illnesses, but you can mistake the signs and symptoms of flu, or West Nile for flu,” said Lanza.

When it comes to acquiring West Nile, the odds are in your favor against it. About 75 percent of people bitten don’t show symptoms. But, others can show them between three and 14 days after the bite and of those, about 20 percent get the disease.

“Fever, headache, delirium, body aches and pains, seizures, coma, and sometimes, in the worst case, death,” Lanza said. “There is no treatment for any viral, mosquito-borne disease. You just treat symptoms.”

Encephalitis, meningitis, and other neuro-invasive diseases develop in less than one percent of West Nile patients.

“This summer we’ve had a fair number of challenges on working with our mosquitoes,” said Tim Day, Interim Manager of Escambia County Mosquito Control. “When we get our periods of heavy rainfall like we did about five weeks ago, when we had a 12-inch rainfall, it inundates our guys on trying to get ahead.”

Moving from summer to fall their main weapons are larvacide, to keep mosquitos from hatching, and adulticide to battle their parents.

“One of the best things to use to control mosquitoes if we have any standing water is one of the natural predators called the gambusia fish,” Day said. “They primarily feed on mosquito larvae.”

Swimming pools, if operating properly, are larvae-proof because the water is moving constantly. Day says they spray areas of Escambia County, which covers 876 square miles, on a need basis after first setting mosquito traps to get an idea of the population.

“We can actually see what mosquitoes are causing the problem,” said Day. “Different mosquitos have different habitats for their breeding. If you’re just randomly spraying, you’re going to knock down the mosquitoes that are around that night. But if you haven’t treated where they’re breeding, a night or two later it’s going to be back having the same problems.”

Mosquito Control’s Tim Day is asking the public to help keep down the number of mosquitos, primarily what are called “container breeders.”

“Taking time to look around your property, making sure your gutters are flowing well,” said Day. “If you have flower pots or bird feeders, making sure you’re flipping those over twice a week.”

Escambia-DOH also reminds everyone that West Nile is not spread through person-to-person contact, such as touching, kissing, or caring for someone who’s infected. More information can be found at EscambiaHealth.com and at cdc.gov.